Your child’s school bag and how they carry it can affect the health of their spine for the rest of their lives. We often end up lugging heaving bags for more than 12 years. Making the right decisions now can prevent many back and neck conditions in the future. It can also help minimize sore necks, tight shoulder muscles and painful low backs as your child goes through their education.
Below is a list of tips to help you and your children to check and fit their backpack.
- Straps should be wide, padded and comfortable (unfortunately comfort is more important than looks!).
- Both straps should be used to keep the body centred.
- Bag width should be no wider than the chest.
- The base of the bag should sit above the hollow of the low back
- The bag should fit well against the back, in contact the whole way down. No gaps between the bag and the body.
- Straps should be pulled nice and firm to hold the bag in the right position. Sagging bags are no good, they put extra pull and pressure on the neck and shoulders
- Waist and chest straps help stabilize the bag and bring the weight of the bag in close (although in Dr Tressa’s experience, it’s hard enough to get kids to put both straps on the shoulders let alone use a waist strap!). If you think there is no chance of them wearing the straps, it can be better to get a bag without waist straps as if they sit between the bag and spine they can push the bag further away from the body.
- Weigh the fully packed bag on the scales – it should be less than 10% of their bodyweight. It’s important to carry only what they need, planning well and using lockers whenever possible.
- Pack the heavy things at the bottom and on the side closest to the straps. The closer the weight sits to the spine, the less pressure on the body and the more easily it handles the weight.
- Bags with multiple compartments are great as they can put the heavy books in the compartment closest to the straps and light things away from the body.
- Sports bags are best carried with the strap worn diagonally across the body, after lifting the bag placing the strap over the head. This stops low shoulders and side leaning. They should only be used if the equipment is too big to fit into a backpack. Otherwise a backpack is always the best option.
- The Chiropractors Association of Australia endorses the Chiropak II which is made by Spartan. It has all of the above requirements plus a removable moulded spinal board to allow a custom fit.